Earl Grey’s Irish Famine Orphans (39)

IRISH FAMINE WOMEN; a challenge or three+

Some people may have read the centre-piece of this post already. It is the talk I gave at the International Irish Famine commemoration in Sydney in 2013. Tinteán published an edited version sometime later.

Today, I want to ask other labourers in the vineyard if they would take up some of my ‘challenges’. Is it true that Van Diemen’s Land bore the brunt of Ireland’s Famine misery? What do we know about the 4-5,000 single Irish women who arrived in South Australia c. 1855-56? Who were they? Where in Ireland did they come from? What happened to them? Over fifty years ago Cherry Parkin included them in her Honours thesis. As far as I know little has been done since.

There are no pretty or informative illustrations in this post. I’ve omitted them because i wanted to emphasize the importance of ‘words’. I hope you will ponder them. Note, too, there is one more example added to the end of my talk. I hope it tells you why i think this is important.

 

page 1 Irish Famine Women; a challenge or three

a chairde

Sul a gcuirfidh mé tús leis an léach seo, ba maith liom a chur in iúl an meas mór atá agam ar muintir na Cadigal don náisiún Eora, agus na shinsear a thánaig rompu a bhí i bhfeighil an dúthaigh seo. (Thank you Tom and Sinead and Síle)

One of the most striking achievements in Irish scholarship during the last eighteen years or so is the sheer range and depth of works on the Great Irish Famine. After years of relative neglect the sesquicentenary of that tragic event seems to have opened the scholarly floodgates. Yet surprisingly, there seems to be no major study of women during the famine. It’s as if a big piece of the jigsaw is missing. There are a number of excellent small pieces but no comprehensive study of Irish Famine women. An exemplary work, the closest yet to what I have in mind, is in fact a work in comparative literature; Margaret Kelleher’s The Feminization of Famine: Expressions of the inexpressible.(1997)

Professor Kelleher claims that “where the individual spectacle of a hungry body is created, this occurs predominantly (tho’ not exclusively) through images of women” [8]. [or Lysaght, 99] Think about that for a moment. If I say “Famine” to you, what mental image comes to mind?…..

For me, it’s an image of Sudanese and Somali women who appeared on our television screens last year. Victims of famine and drought, those women decided to take their hungry and sick children and walk for miles and miles in search of help.

It is an image that is echoed in the very moving stream of consciousness essay by Connell Foley at the end of that brilliant Atlas of the Great Irish Famine, [Cork Up, 2012, p. 678]

…and if you are a woman subsistence farmer in a remote part of the congo

or niger and you have five extra mouths to feed because your brother died

2 of hiv and you are looking at the sky and you are looking at your land

and you are calculating if there will be too little rain too late or too much

so that your basic crop will be ruined and you do not know how you will feed

your children or pay for some medicines but you get up every day

and you do what you can… [Beckett] You must go on…I can’t go on…I’ll go on.

And for the Irish Famine, it’s James Mahony’s London Illustrated News images of women. You probably know “A Woman Begging at Clonakilty”, for money to bury her dead child (Feb ’47), or “Bridget O’Donnell and her children” recently evicted from their holding near Kilrush. (Dec. ’49).

Yet looking thru/over my own research notes, what struck me is not women’s victimisation –but their agency, their stoicism and determination in the face of catastrophe –and the variety of their coping strategies. Women were the leaders in workhouse riots and protests in Cork, Limerick and Tipperary [BGMB records] asserting their entitlement to better treatment and better food. In 1848, 600 women rose en masse in Cork workhouse and attacked the visiting Poor Law Inspector, “having armed themselves with stones, tins and bottles”. In Nenagh, women were the leading characters…dashing saucepans, tins and pints of stirabout to the ground and smashing windows”. In Limerick, [in April 1849,] there was a riot of women screaming and throwing pints of ale at workhouse officers. These women were probably in the second of Professor Lawrence Geary ‘s three famine phases, the protracted period of “resistance’ which came after the initial “Alarm” phase and before the final phase he calls “Exhaustion”. The second phase, according to Professor Geary, saw the slow disappearance of community generosity and focus shifting away from ‘family’ to personal survival.[Mike Murphy lecture]

Women have always been given due/proper attention by historical demographers. Women’s age at marriage, their marital fertility rate and their mortality rate are crucial to any study of famine demography.

Of particular interest here is that more men than women perished during the famine. Women had what Kate McIntyre calls “a female mortality advantage”. An interesting twist to this is David Fitzpatrick’s suggestion, that –since women were in effect the principal guardians of comfort and succour, the primary suppliers of care and affection, they became the holders of the only entitlement, love, that may have been inflated by famine [67]. The mere thought of trying to examine the history of affection during the famine will no doubt be the stuff of nightmares for traditional historians.

If the evidence collected by the Irish Folklore Commission is to be valued,— [there is some debate about the reliability of that evidence, since it was collected long after the event itself. However, it’s too easy to dismiss/Nonetheless, I think we should learn to appreciate the skills of oral historians and the sophisticated ways they assess their source material. Such evidence can tell us something of what it was like to have been there. [O’Grada, Black ’47](Why were women in the oral tradition perceived as suffering the worst of consequences?) ] If the folklore evidence is to believed, women during the famine had a good reputation as providers of charity. The renowned Peig Sayers recounted to the Commissioners the story of a Kerry woman, Bridie Shehan, who tied her dead daughter to her back with ropes, and carried her to the local graveyard where two men helped her bury her daughter. When Bridie made her way back home, her neighbour, Nora Landers, called her in and gave her seven of her own precious seed potatoes. [ O’Grada’s Black ’47, 200-01]

A female outsider, an American visitor, Asenath Nicholson, a widow, who wrote about her travels through Ireland, also has a well deserved reputation for charitable good works. It is from her that we learn of an Irish Famine woman’s task of closing the door on her family’s grave. If I may quote from her work, (Annals of the Famine in Ireland)

A cabin was seen closed one day…when a man had the curiosity

to open it, and in a dark corner he found a family of the father, mother

4 and two children, lying in close compact. The father was considerably

decomposed; the mother, it appeared, had died last, and probably

fastened the door, which was always the custom when all hope

was extinguished, to get in to the darkest corner and die, where passers- by could not see them.

Such family scenes were quite common, and the cabin was generally pulled down upon them for a grave.[ Kelleher, 85]

Clearly then women were very much present in famine times. They were there in the workhouse [in Limerick, Cork, Nenagh (or wherever,)] rioting against their treatment and poor quality food. They were there inside the cottier’s cottage, their domestic domain, when the pile of potatoes on the table grew smaller and smaller and decisions had to be taken as to who got what, and how much. They were there around the family hearth when the decision was made to send their sons and daughters abroad, or to decide if the whole family should emigrate. And women were most likely there, at the very end when they could still close the door to their cottage, their family grave.

This then is our first challenge: a full blown study of Irish women’s role during the famine.

What part did women play in Irish society and economy? What work did they do in the fields, at sowing or at harvest time? Did they help dig ditches, gather sticks, dig turf, feed cattle, pigs and poultry or groom horses by lantern, late on a winter’s night? Was their work confined to a kitchen garden, washing, weaving, cooking, sweeping the yard and cleaning the house? How did all this differ from class to class or region to region before, during and after the Famine?

What exactly was women’s role in family life? Were women the chief providers of affection? What was their sense of moral value? Were they protectors and promoters of religious belief? Did they act as guardians of oral tradition and transmitters of language and culture? Did the Famine overturn traditional family structures and throw traditional mores into disarray? Did women have to find and procure food for themselves and their desperately hungry children by whatever means, travelling miles, begging, and stealing if needs be. [These are some of the questions that spring to my mind. I’m sure you will think of others.]

Without an understanding of women’s role, may I suggest to you, our knowledge of the famine will always remain incomplete?

Our second challenge then is a full-scale, comprehensive study of Irish-Australian Famine women. The important thing, as before, is that we view these women through the lens of the Famine.

When I was preparing Barefoot & Pregnant? in the 1980s I was concerned about identifying people who knew an driochsheal, people who had first hand experience of the ‘bad life’, the ‘bitter time’ of the Famine. The young women who came here as part of the Earl Grey scheme were exactly what I was looking for. These young women obviously are essential to any study of Irish-Australian famine women.

But I think it is now time to cast the net more widely –to include, perhaps, some of the landlord assisted immigrants from the Monteagle estates in Limerick or the Shirley estate in Monaghan, for example– Or at least, the young women who came from workhouses in Clare and Cork to Hobart on the Beulah and Calcutta in 1851 –Or to Sydney, on the Lady Kennaway from Cork workhouses in 1854. These last, I’m sure you know, were the occasion of a fascinating political brouhaha here in NSW from the mid to late 1850s.

6

Let me give three examples to show what can be done—first, Irish female convicts transported to Tasmania, second, government assisted family migrants to NSW and Victoria, and thirdly, the immigration of c. 4-5000 Single females to South Australia in the 1850s.

At the beginning of the 1840s, about 1,000 Irish convicts were transported to Van Diemen’s Land each year. By the famine years, the annual intake had risen to 3,000. The transportation of female convicts, unlike that of males, did not stop during those years. “Tasmania thus bore the brunt of Irish famine misery ”, says Professor Richard Davis [9]. Not everyone would agree. Rena Lohan, a postgraduate student, in her study of Grangegorman, the women’s prison in Dublin, for example, found that most of the prisoners were already hardened criminals. Any link between Irish female convicts and the famine is tenuous, she argued. As always, the issue is complex and open to debate.

Were Irish judges more lenient in their sentencing during the famine? Knowing the difficult circumstances people were in, were they more prepared to accept as a defense, that crimes were committed “on grounds of want”? One such was the Exchequer Baron, John Richards who was willing to send convicts to Tasmania especially when he learned they had nowhere to go and would be without support when their prison term expired. Needless to say, not all judges and juries agreed on this matter. There was no consistent policy.

Did more women commit more crimes in order to be transported? Can we establish a strong link between the famine and the types of crimes they committed? Among the crimes recorded against the names of Irish women arriving in 1849 and 1850, for example, we note, “stealing a turkey’, ‘stealing a sheep’, ‘stealing a cow’, ‘stealing fowls’, ‘killed her child by a bandage, a little girl one month old’, ‘house burning’, which in itself carried a life sentence. Do we really need to distinguish between 7’intention’ and crimes born of desperation? Yet what of those women with criminal records stretching before the famine years?

Assuming we can identify female Famine convicts, what became of them in Tasmania? Were they different from other convicts? Were they less likely to re-offend? Were they less likely to be rebellious or to ‘resist’ the convict system, more likely to be ‘accommodationist’, and willing to accept their lot? Or did Australian conditions rather than their Irish famine background determine what became of them? The issues are complex are they not? Yet Tasmanian convict records are so rich it should be possible to answer many of these questions.

A second category of Irish-Australian famine women might include those who came here as part of their family’s emigration strategy. Richard Reid’s excellent work, Farewell my Children [Anchor, 2011], draws attention to the quite elaborate ways families in Ireland used Government assisted schemes to come to Australia during the famine years and the years immediately after. Manoeuvering the intricacies of bureaucratic regulations, filling out forms, collecting the required references from householders, from their local priest or magistrate or doctor, waiting for notification and arranging to join a ship in England, required skill, patience and detailed planning. Working the system, bending the rules, required a different kind of skill.

As family members discussed their emigration prospects around the hearth, in the domestic sphere, I am sure Irish women made their voice heard. One can surmise how influential women’s strength and determination and emotional clout was, in deciding how the family’s emigration strategy would be played out. Strikingly, Irish emigration to Australia in the 19th century was to achieve a gender balance. But in the famine, and years immediately following, many more women than men arrived as government assisted immigrants.

Dr Reid emphasises that it is a mistake to think of these young women, or the young 8sons and daughters in a family, being thrust into the unknown. They were often supported by an extensive and intricate network of family, friends and neighbours, sometimes stretching back to earlier convict days or bounty emigration schemes, sometimes needing a network to be established anew, set-up from scratch. We might ask did daughters play as important a role as sons in establishing these networks, not just for their own nuclear family but for their extended family and other members of their local community as well? Or were they less likely than men to nominate family and friends or manipulate Remittance regulations to their own advantage?

If I might illustrate the complications of this family emigration planning further, with an example form the work of an excellent family historian in Victoria, Anne Tosolini. I’ve used this example before in an article published in Descent in September 1999, [137].

Siblings and cousins (sons and daughters) of the Frehan and Gorman families came here from the parish of Lorrha in Tipperary between 1849 and 1854, some of them to Port Jackson and some to Port Phillip. They were to regroup in Melbourne during those years, the men renting and purchasing properties in neighbouring streets in Richmond, close to people who had been their neighbours in Lorrha. The women, however, settled some distance away, in Geelong. When they married, and their husbands later selected land, they were scattered throughout different parts of Victoria, –their strong bonds of kinship thus becoming slowly and perhaps more easily weakened. Was there a ‘gendered’ difference in the colonial experience of the first generation of migrants? Did the women adapt more readily? Were women more willingly acculturated? Were they more independent in their choice of marriage partners? Was the regrouping of their family more likely to be ‘transitional’ than that of Irish men? These are questions about women’s role in their family emigration strategy that can, and still need to be addressed.

My third example of Irish-Australian Famine women is the circa 4-5 thousand young women who sailed into Port Adelaide in 1854, 1855 and 1856. Boatload after 9boatload of young single Irish females—by the Europa, the Grand Trianon, the Nashwauk, Aliquis and Admiral Boxer, for example,—came to South Australia in the mid 1850s as part of what I would call ‘ their flight from famine and its aftermath’. The Famine had opened the floodgates. Like the Earl Grey female orphans, they too might be considered famine refugees.

So many came in such a short time, so many were allegedly ill-suited to the work required of them, so many demanded food and accommodation in immigrant depots, and so many had been sent to Adelaide under false pretences (they had been told in London they could easily walk to Melbourne and Sydney) that South Australian government authorities established a government enquiry into what they called “Excessive Female Immigration”. Lucky for us they did so. In the minutes of evidence to their report we hear the voice of some of the young women themselves. The women called before the enquiry were asked why they came here. Their answers were what we would expect;–ambitious, independent, hopeful, banal.

[“February 15th 1855 Frances McDowell called in and examined, 32]

What induced you to come out here?—I do not know.

Had you received letters from friends? –I have no friends in Australia.

Did you think you would benefit yourself by coming to this Colony?–I was induced by the published statements to think that I might do well here.”

Some of these women were part of a network already here, and soon left South Australia to join their family and friends in Sydney and Melbourne. But my general impression is that the majority did not belong to such a network. ..Still, until there is an in-depth and thorough study of these women, our conclusions should remain tentative. This surely is a tempting research project for someone living in Adelaide.

Some excellent work has already been done on aspects of this so-called “Excessive” female immigration, –by Cherry Parkin, Eric Richards,Ann Herraman, Stephanie James, Marie Steiner to name a few. After acknowledging the initial troubles these young women had, –some walking 16 miles in the heat of the day, barefoot, to go to a situation, others returning to depot sunburnt, blistered, overworked and cast out after harvest was finished, some found crying, disappointed, despondent and depressed at their prospects—the view of most Australian writers is that these Irish women were generally well cared for and absorbed successfully into South Australian society. Areas of thickest Irish settlement …such as Paddy Gleeson’s Clare Valley were the first to accept and absorb them. The Seven Hills marriage registers demonstrate just how quickly they were accepted.

Other writers, outside Australia, are less upbeat. To quote from two, “The young women settled in badly and most left as soon as they could”. “Those sent into the outback as agricultural labourers barely survived”. (Akenson)

Who exactly were these young women? Which parts of Ireland did they come from? Where did their confidence, –or desperation, come from? What became of them? Were they being realistic in their expectations? Were they disillusioned? In fact, the same sort of questions may be asked of all of our Irish-Australian famine women, whether family emigrants, workhouse women, foundling orphans, convicts or convict families.

Is it possible to view them through the lens of their famine experience? Or at least try to view them from their own perspective? Look at their history through their own eyes, follow in their footsteps? This is my third challenge.

It’s not an easy thing to do. Finding out about the famine in our subject’s locality and even surmising the impact it might have had on our subject’s psyche, and subsequent life, are approaches we may need to take. It especially means our not accepting official sources at face value. They provide only a limited and slanted view of things –which is not that of the women themselves. Dig deeper. Read the sources “against the grain” [perhaps in the same manner as postcolonial Indian historians of the 1980s.] If necessary, rearrange the mental furniture we normally use in studying the past.

In the end, our sources may never allow us to get ‘inside the head’ of individual women. We may never get close enough to know them ‘in the round’–except perhaps through intelligent creative fiction. Which is why I’m very much looking forward to reading Evelyn Conlon’s Not the same sky [Wakefield Press, 2013]which is being launched later this afternoon.

Finally, our challenge is also about taking care with the language we use. Language is a loaded gun. If I may explain this by means of a few phrases, [–‘the Atlantic slave trade‘, the ‘Holocaust‘ and ‘pauper immigration‘.]

My first full-paid university appointment in the 1960s was in the West Indies. For me, a phrase such as “the Atlantic Slave trade” is a Pandora’s box, full of memories and meanings. But at its core is the 12 million people bought and sold like chattel, bought and sold like pieces of farm machinery or livestock, people denied their humanity.

One of the last courses I taught at Macquarie University before I retired included the Holocaust, the industrial mass murder of 6 million Jewish people. It was a subject that troubled me greatly. I found myself insisting upon saying Jewish people as a means of recognising the victims’ humanity. Without that recognition of our common humanity, it can happen again and again, as it did in Cambodia, in Rwanda and in the former Yugoslavia.

Even a seemingly innocuous/straightforward phrase such as “pauper immigration”, [still current in some quarters when writing about the Earl Grey famine orphans,] –has different layers of meaning. It carries a class interpretation. It implies that some immigrants are of less value than others, and hence, as human beings. Many of the young famine orphan girls who came here were bilingual, especially those from the west of Ireland. They spoke both Irish and English. The Irish word “bochtán” –‘poor person’– contains within it recognition of the poor person’s humanity in a way that the phrase, “pauper immigration” [Madgwick, chpt.X] does not. As those young women accommodated themselves to their new Australian circumstances they lost that language, and that world view; they lost that way of looking at the world. [There is a v. interesting essay, on this very subject by Mairead Nic Craith, Legacy and Loss, towards the end of that brilliant work, Atlas of the Great Irish Famine. p.580]

Today, I wish to add a third phrase, “the Irish potato famine” which is gaining currency these days. It is a phrase which many Irish people find insulting. Why is that? What’s wrong with those words?

Sure, failure of the potato crop is a very important part of what happened but as I said in post no.4 http://wp.me/p4SlVj-3I

famine is always about more than shortage of food and starvation. In that post I mentioned the work of Amartya Sen. Do search for him on google and for his colleague with whom he wrote about famine and poverty, Jean Drèze. I see one can even download the whole of Sen’s Poverty and Famines: an essay on entitlements and deprivation from more than one place. Even if you do not agree with his theory of entitlements applied to the Irish case you will realize how complex famines are. Poverty, over-crowding, a vicious land system, poor housing, underemployment, hoarding, thieving, price gouging, gombeen men, ‘culpable’ neglect on the part of government, the quarter acre clause, betrayal of one’s neighbours, and the unstoppable march of disease, are all in the mix. A phrase such as ‘the Irish potato famine’ misdirects our attention and fails to understand the complexities involved. “The Irish Potato Famine”–no; “The Great Irish Famine”–yes.

Let me put this another way. I’ll use the final words of David Nally in his Human Encumbrances.

“How are catastrophic famines to be prevented? One possible answer is provided by those who resisted famine policies in the 1840s: stop creating them”. (231)

Do please think about the words you want to use  before uttering them.

Is minic a ghearr teanga  duine a scornach (it’s often a person’s tongue/language cuts his throat)
My thanks to Tom Power, and  Tom and Sinead McCloughlin for this saying.

Careful as you go. Mind your language.

Trevor McClaughlin 24 August 2013

Earl Grey’s Irish Famine Orphans (38)

USEFUL WEBSITES and links

Whilst I make up my mind whether to continue with this, revise what I have with a view to publication in hard-copy, or just abandon it, I thought you might like to play with some of these web links. It’s only in the last fifteen years or so that the internet has become a useful research tool for most of us in Australia. One day we may have internet access as reliable as people in South Korea and Japan. (Tell him he’s dreamin’).

As I’m sure everyone is aware, what’s available on the web is still only a tiny fraction of what exists in archives.  For instance I don’t think all the Reports of Immigrant ships into Port Jackson are digitised yet. State Records New South Wales (SRNSW) has 4/2823 (Lady Peel); 4/2907 (John Knox); 4/2914A (Tippoo Saib). Am I right or am I right? The encouraging news is how many more records are becoming available minute by minute, day by day. What I find most impressive is how easily and how quickly we can communicate with one another. There’s a downside too but we’ll not worry about that just now.

I’ve put together a selection of links I hope you’ll explore. Most of them appear somewhere on my blog. One or two do not. They are in no particular order, except that the first two tell you about the ‘Gatherings’ in Sydney and Melbourne that celebrate the Earl Grey orphans each year. Most are both educational and informative. And lots are merely entry points for you to do your own research. Happy surfing! Hope you’re waving, not drowning.

 

 

http://www.irishfaminememorial.org

https://tintean.org.au/2015/11/12/irish-ambassador-at-famine-rock-commemoration-2015/

http://mykerryancestors.com/sharing-your-kerry-ancestors

http://mayoorphangirls.weebly.com

http://www.abc.net.au/radionational/programs/hindsight/the-famine-girls/4857904

https://vimeo.com/75656628

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QrOWw_qZ0sY

https://viewsofthefamine.wordpress.com/

http://www.dippam.ac.uk/eppi/

http://trove.nla.gov.au

http://registers.nli.ie

http://www.workhouses.org.uk/Ireland/

http://www.convictwomenandorphangirls.com/Convict_Women/Home.html

http://www.irelandsgreathunger.com/about.html

http://ighm.org/

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0p4pNJFrsTE

http://sydneylivingmuseums.com.au/stories/irish-orphan-girls-hyde-park-barracks

http://www.slideshare.net/GeobitsLtd/mapping-the-great-irish-famine-mike-murphy

http://tobinfamilyhistoryaus.blogspot.com.au/2013/03/stephen-tobin-ch9-sister-ellen-tobin.html

http://jakiscloudnine.blogspot.ie/2015/02/the-genesis-of-belfastgirls-at.html?m=1

Earl Grey’s Irish Famine Orphans (37)

DIGITAL MAPS?

I’ve long had an interest in historical geography and historical atlases in particular. I remember well the impact a good map had upon my uni students in Jamaica. A map of the Atlantic Slave Trade and one showing the spread of Jesuit colleges in Europe during the Counter/Catholic Reformation were two of my favourites. Maybe that’s why I admire the work of cartographer, Mike Murphy, in the Atlas of the Great Irish Famine, Cork, 2012.

These days, living in a ‘Computer Age’, the creative possibilities are exciting. The map below shows the location of some of the Irish Famine orphans in 1861, that is, according to the birth registration of their children.

Irish Famine orphans in Eastern Australia in 1861

Irish Famine orphans in Eastern Australia in 1861

I wonder how difficult it would be to create an interactive map? If we were really ambitious we should try something like the projects at Stanford University, http://web.stanford.edu/group/spatialhistory/cgi-bin/site/projects.php

But maybe that’s too ambitious for the uninitiated. Could we do something simpler instead, such as clicking on the dots in the map above to bring up all the information we have about the orphan who resided there at that particular time?

We may be lucky enough to have a photograph.

Rose Sherry per John Knox

Rose Sherry per John Knox

Rose was living in Clare Terrace, off William Street, in Double Bay, Sydney, in 1861.

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Or a record of her marriage. This is Jane Troy‘s, in Portland,

Jane Troy marries George Smith, Portland, Victoria

Jane Troy marries George Smith, Portland, Victoria

You may remember Jane from an earlier post http://wp.me/p4SlVj-Di

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Maybe there are some probate records. I wonder how common it was for an orphan or her husband to make a will. I’d be surprised if even 30% of them did so. Here are a couple of examples, extracts only I’m afraid. I’m unsure about permission to reproduce such things. These are from Victorian records.

Re the family of an orphan from Leitrim

Re the family of an orphan from Leitrim

That was a sad story. The orphan, Jane Liddy, from Leitrim, married well but she and her husband died at a young age. Their considerable estate vanished in the maintenance and medical care of their nine children.

Another one,

Interesting effects

Interesting effects

The man knew his livestock, even by name, Boxer and Diamond and Fagan and Dandy.

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Let me demonstrate how this map business might work. Here is a map of the orphans in Queensland c. 1861. I’ve entered a few numbers. If we had an interactive map, what might appear if we clicked on numbers 1 and 2, at Ipswich?

blogqldorp61

It may only be a family reconstitution, no other material being available. If you click on the images you can make them larger.

So, number 1 is for Cicely Moran per Thomas Arbuthnot,

Cicely Moran from Galway

Cicely Moran from Galway

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Number 2 is for Mary Casey per Digby

Mary Casey from Longford

Mary Casey from Longford

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Can you find numbers 3 & 4 on the map?

Number 3 is for Bridget Murray per Lady Peel who was in Brisbane in 1861.

Bridget Murray from Roscommon

Bridget Murray from Roscommon

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Number 4 is for Jane Duff per Earl Grey

blogjdu

Jane is from Newtownards and is at Condamine in 1861.

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Number 5 is for Celia Dempsey per Digby(?)

Celia Dempsey from Dublin (Kingstown later Dun Laoghaire)

Celia Dempsey from Dublin (Kingstown later Dun Laoghaire). She is in Dalby.

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Number 6 is Margaret Plunkett per John Knox

Margaret Plunkett from Armagh/Newry

Margaret Plunkett from Armagh/Newry

The Armagh/Newry contradiction appears on the John Knox  shipping list. She was in Cadargo in 1861.

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Now where is number 7? It’s for Bridget McQueeney(ie) per Lady Peel

Bridget McQueenie from Leitrim

Bridget McQueenie from Leitrim

Bridget was in Laidley in 1861

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Number 8 is for someone we’ve met already, the spirited Margaret Stack from Ennistymon per Thomas Arbuthnot.

See the section ‘Moreton Bay District’ towards the bottom of  http://wp.me/p4SlVj-vf 

Here is a photograph of that feisty 14 year-old later in life, as formidable as ever.

Margaret Smith nee Stack from Ennistymon Co. Clare

Margaret Smith nee Stack from Ennistymon Co. Clare

 blogmstackIt looks as though she was at Baramba Station in 1861? My thanks to her ancestor who sent me this information.

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Number 9 is for Mary Ann Prendergast, once again per Thomas Arbuthnot

Mary Ann Prendergast from Galway

Mary Ann Prendergast from Galway

Mary was at Toowoomba in 1861.

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I’m sure it would be possible to create interactive maps such as these. But we’d need a website and a number of helpers. I wonder what resources the Great Irish Famine Commemoration Committee has these days. Probably nowhere near as much as they would like. Imagine tracing how far the orphans travelled in Queensland (and elsewhere). Maybe one could invent an app. to allow people to map the geographic movement of their orphan ancestor? —-for a fee of course, or a contribution to one of the GIFCC Outreach programmes, http://irishfaminememorial.org/media/filer_private/2012/08/09/brochurenew_detailsprint.pdf

I suppose it’s a case of “tell him he’s dreamin”. (Hope you’ve seen the Australian film,’The Castle‘).

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May I remind readers of the annual gathering at Hyde Park Barracks on the last Sunday in August, the 28th this year? See http://irishfaminememorial.org/

Scroll down that page for information. The Guest speaker is Tim Costello, a brilliant choice.

The featured image is ‘Bullock Dray Melbourne 1851’, courtesy of the Dixson Library, Sydney.

And for a link to the contents of my blog see http://wp.me/p4SlVj-oE

Earl Grey’s Irish Famine Orphans (36)

Unfinished Stories (3)

(The featured image at the head of this post is of Marjorie Collins in the laboratory at Adelaide University. It is reproduced courtesy of the University of Adelaide Archives).

Bridget McMahon per Maria (1850)

Let me tell you an uplifting story. It’s the story of a famine orphan, Bridget McMahon, from Rathkeale workhouse in County Limerick.

I’m very grateful to Bridget’s descendant, Dr Eleanor Dawson, for sharing the information she has about Bridget’s history. People may know Eleanor from episode four of Barrie and Síobhán’s docudrama, Mná Díbeartha. Eleanor was interviewed early in 2009(?) if my memory is correct. She and I have some things in common. Obviously, an interest in the Famine orphans. We also share a profound belief in the value of education. And coincidentally, we share a medical history. My father died of tuberculosis when he was 31 years old; Eleanor contracted tuberculosis at 16 in her last year(s) of school. She was sent home to bed within the hour of her first ever X-ray, after 3 months of productive cough and lethargy. With home tutors, including her mother, she came out top of the New South Wales Leaving Certificate examination in 1944. Her uncle Archie, a medical man, saved her life, she says. In the days before antibiotics, from 1943 to 1947, he regularly inserted, under local anaesthetic, a cannula between the left lung and thoracic wall, creating an artificial pneumothorax collapsing the worse affected lung and its apical cavity, thereby promoting rest and healing. (Thank you Eleanor for information about the procedure. Eleanor too is a medical graduate; also a researcher, and a retired psychiatrist).

There are some differences between us too. I’m a trained historian who is concerned with historical context; what was the Famine like in Limerick, for instance. I would encourage would-be orphan family historians not to neglect the Irish context of their orphan. And to look for those things that help make ‘our’ family members more than ‘singular’ and unique but representative of something larger. For the advice Alison Light gives in her Common People, see http://wp.me/p4SlVj-Gf

 Eleanor has a closer relationship with a particular orphan, Bridget McMahon, her great-grandmother, than I could ever have. With her training in medicine and psychiatry, she is inclined towards her family’s medical history, and towards a professional understanding of the emotional and psychological dimension of such a family history.

Still, if we were preparing a television programme such as Who do you think you are? we’d tell you we intend focusing on Bridget’s distaff line; from Bridget to her daughter Annie Marie Long (later Collins), to granddaughter, Marjorie Collins (later Shiels), all the way to her great-granddaughter, Eleanor Shiels (later Dawson). How appropriate is that? It is Bridget’s mitochondrial line, mtydna. And if you allow me some licence, I’d say there is much of Bridget in Eleanor Dawson. She is quiet and unassuming, not given to blowing her own trumpet, highly intelligent, resilient, resourceful and a character as strong as tempered steel.

I’m telling you all this because it is important we examine where we are coming from. We, all of us, should be aware, and wary of, the ways our beliefs and values influence how we interpret the past. Self reflection is important.

——————————————————–

Let us begin with Bridget herself. Eleanor tells us, according to the New South Wales Board of Immigration shipping record of the Maria (the penultimate Earl Grey orphan vessel to arrive in Sydney, at the end of June 1850) Bridget could read but not write. She was a dressmaker, Roman Catholic by religion, and of good health, strength and possible usefulness. When she went from Ireland to join the shipload of ‘sister-orphans’ in Plymouth, her father John McMahon was dead, and her mother, Penelope ní Carroll, was living in Rathkeale, County Limerick, possibly in that very workhouse Bridget had left.

On Rathkeale workhouse, see Peter Higginbotham’s great website, http://workhouses.org.uk/Rathkeale/

Something of a mystery

There is a discrepancy between Bridget’s age (19) recorded on the Maria shipping list and the age she gave (22) at the time of her marriage to Samuel Long in 1858. We have searched Limerick Catholic parish records high and low for Bridget’s baptismal record and the marriage record of her parents, John McMahon and Penelope Carrol(l), without success.

[What a valuable resource is the National Library of Ireland’s online record of Catholic parish records. See http://registers.nli.ie Happy hunting and may your eyes be strong!]

What we did find was Penelope’s baptism, 6 January 1815, ‘Penelope of John Fitzgerald Fmr and Naby(?) Carrol, townland of Caherelly, parish of Ballybricken and Bohermore, sponsor, Mary Soolivan’. This link should take you there. Click on the plus sign at the top of the page to make the image larger.

http://registers.nli.ie/registers/vtls000632644#page/38/mode/1up

Penelope is such a distinctive name. This is the only Penelope we found in Limerick parish records. Our priestly authority, Tom Power, suggests the local priest may not have been happy with the name, it not being ‘Christian’ enough. But Penelope definitely retained it. She is recorded as Penelope Carroll at the birth of Bridget’s sister Mary, in Rathkeale parish, 2 October 1836, and as a sponsor at the baptism of James Quin in the same parish, 22 January 1839. I wonder where the name originated. Perhaps Naby or John learned of it at a Hedge school. Had they heard of Homer’s Odysseus? Maybe Penelope’s determination to keep the name, Penelope ní Carroll, was not so uncommon. Or perhaps she had a rebellious nature, or at least, an independent spirit.

We searched for Bridget’s baptism and her parents’ marriage, especially in  Ballybricken and Rathkeale, and in the parishes in between. We assume both events occurred in parishes where appropriate records have not survived, maybe in Cappagh, Banogue, or Croagh.

—————————————————————

And what of the Famine in Limerick?  It certainly threw Bridget into Rathkeale workhouse. Her father may have been a famine death. Limerick had high rates of people being evicted from their holdings during the Famine, and large numbers of people being employed on public works, breaking stones and making roads. Its port exported tonnes of grain during the Famine years, and imported tonnes of maize or Indian corn, making large profits for corn factors and millers. That corn may have helped save Bridget’s life.

The Famine in Limerick, especially around Rathkeale, is something worth researching further. I have to hand notes I made from a local newspaper, The Limerick Reporter. [Which reminds me, Macquarie University Library has microfilm copies of some Irish newspapers at the time of the orphans’ emigration. From memory, The Galway Vindicator and Connaught Advertiser, The Clare Journal, The Fermanagh Mail and Enniskillen Chronicle, and The Armagh Guardian].

Bridget and her mother surely knew what was happening around them: of the women rioting in the William Street Auxiliary workhouse in Limerick, 13 April 1849? Or of the women rioting in Nenagh workhouse in Barrack street in the same month? Or of John Sheehan P.P. telling of the frightful destitution in Ennistymon, County Clare, “The meal depots are more crowded than our chapels, but these must appear, to have their poverty paraded, with their spectral shapes, and skeleton forms, half-naked and in rags, eaten alive with filth and squalor and vermin…”, Limerick Reporter, April and May 1849.

The following report may have reached them too. It is from the Reporter’s Milltown Malbay correspondent, printed 26 October 1849.

“I was witness to an interesting exhibition at the Ennistymon workhouse, viz. the emigration of twenty-three female paupers selected by the active Vice-Guardians Messrs. Naish and Ward for the sunny clime of Australia. Under the careful superintendence of Miss Griffith, the Matron, these fortunate creatures appeared to excellent advantage in their tasteful costumes, cottage bonnets and green veils, bidding an eternal farewell to the unfortunate land of their birth, while their ruddy health and contented mien, contrasted painfully with the squalid wretchedness of 500 miserable beings at the gates, claimants for admission.”

Did some of the orphans carry guilt in their psychological baggage when they left for Australia?

————————————————

Out of Ireland

Unfortunately we do not know who employed Bridget in Australia. There is a family story she was seamstress to the Blaxlands  at Bathurst and Ryde. It may only be one of those stories that families create. We have not been able to confirm it.  Yet the story can be traced to someone who knew Bridget when she was still alive, so we shall not dismiss it out of hand. What we do know is that she married Samuel Long,  a Protestant, from County Tyrone, in 1858, nearly eight years after she arrived. She wasn’t having any of that ‘daggers drawn fighting on a narrow ground’ (Walter Scott). She was prepared to marry across the religious divide.

In 2005, Eleanor asked if I would take a short detour from my trip to Donegal and look for Samuel’s place of origin in the parish of Ardstraw, townland of Ballyfolliard, County Tyrone. No worries. It is now a rich and fertile dairy farming area, not jam-packed with people as in the 1850s.

ardstrawfolliard

 

“And we call that crossroads Tobair Vree. And why do we call it Tobair Vree. I’ll tell you why. Tobair means a well. But what does Vree mean? It’s a corruption of Brian… an erosion of Tobair Bhriain. Because a hundred and fifty years ago there used to be well there…And an old man called Brian …drowned in that well… What do we do with a name like that? Do we scrap Tobair Vree altogether and call it what?–The Cross? Crossroads? Or do we keep piety with a man long dead…?” (Brian Friel, Translations, Act two, scene one).

Samuel Long, Eleanor informed me, was one of six sons of a tenant farmer of the Duke of Abercorn. He was literate, had been in the Irish Constabulary and arrived in the Vocalist, in Port Jackson, in October 1856, with two of his brothers. An uncle by marriage, established for some years as a farmer in Wollongong, had paid for them under Remittance Regulations. Aged 26, 24, and 22, they were designated as farm labourers but all were soon absorbed into the Colonial Service. Samuel became a labourer, then a senior attendant and then the storekeeper at the Tarban Creek Lunatic Asylum. In 1869, Tarban Creek Asylum became Hospital for the Insane, Gladesville. 

Building, Hospital for the Insane, Gladesville, c.1883

Building, Hospital for the Insane, Gladesville, c.1883. Courtesy State Records New South Wales

Samuel and Bridget had a long association with such institutions. Samuel later became institutional storekeeper at the Newcastle Asylum for Imbeciles and Idiots, as it was named, 1871-1914. After the loss of her eighth and last Gladesville-born child as a premature baby, Bridget acted as de facto gatekeeper in Newcastle, for a time.

Both of them must have had some sort of relationship with other members of staff and some of the patients, we would suggest. The institutional records that have survived will allow us to put their lives into historical context. It is a task for another time. It will not be for the faint-hearted.

Later in life Samuel became senior attendant at the Australian Museum in College Street, Sydney. Bridget Ann Long (nee McMahon) and Samuel Long each died in the care of their childless son Robert and his wife Rebecca at their Waverley home in November 1913 and February 1914. Their unpretentious headstone overlooks the Pacific ocean at Waverley cemetery.

Ann Maria Collins (1863-1921)

Around the same time the New South Wales government introduced plans to ‘improve’ Gladesville Mental Hospital, it sought to reform public education. A new Education Act or Public Instruction Act was passed in 1880 making education compulsory for all 6 to 14 year olds. As a result, there would be an enormous increase in the number of schools in New South Wales. State Aid was withdrawn from denominational schools and three new types of schools were created, Superior Public, High, and Evening Public schools. See http://www.governmentschools.det.nsw.edu.au/story/instruction_act.shtm

Ann Maria Long was to marry James Patrick Collins, a Limerick man who had arrived via Canada to take up a post with the new Department of Public Instruction. The couple would move around New South Wales as James moved from post to post. He first taught at Swan Bay and Woodford Leigh before moving to Lismore Public. This last was to become a Superior Public school during James’s time. It prepared some students for matriculation to the University of Sydney. After their home was flooded and one of their children had died of diphtheria and Annie about to be confined with baby Archie Collins, James’s request for a transfer was accepted. The family moved to Richmond where the couple’s last three children were born. In 1897 James was appointed to Manly school and the family lived in the schoolmaster’s residence in Darley Road (now demolished).

Sadly, James died aged 42, leaving behind 34 year old Annie with six surviving children. Annie herself would die when she was only 57. Somewhere in that gene pool lies a seemingly random family ‘time-bomb’? Annie was able to manage after James’s early death…by teaching. She and her eldest son, Clarence Richard, worked as pupil teacher and work mistress, moving from one rented accommodation to another. With the help of bursaries Annie put four children through Sydney University, at a time when the number of people going to University was very small. As Sydney University says, it was ‘a brilliant family’… Clarence Richard Collins, B. A., Archibald John Collins M.B. Ch.B, Rosalie Helena Collins, B. A. and…

Near the outbreak of the First World War, in 1913, Archie completed his medical studies. He was to graduate with first class honours and awarded the Walter and Eliza Hall traveling scholarship for medical research in London. Instead, he served with distinction in the Australian Imperial Force (AIF) in France, being awarded the Distinguished Service Order (DSO) and Military Cross (MC) for gallantry in charge of a casualty clearing station. He was later knighted for services to medicine and served the University of Sydney as a Senator for many years. What a tale Eleanor’s family has to tell of Archie.

The fourth graduate was Eleanor’s mother, Marjorie Collins, B.Sc. and M.Sc.

Marjorie Shiels (1895-1970)

Marjorie Collins. Courtesy of the University of Sydney Archives G3/224/1415

Marjorie Collins. Courtesy of the University of Sydney Archives G3/224/1415

Marjorie Collins was also a brilliant scholar. Like her brother Archie and her younger sister, she was Dux of Fort Street School. For a synopsis of her academic career see http://sydney.edu.au/arms/archives/history/students_early_women_Collins.shtml

She graduated with first class honours in Botany from Sydney University in 1916. She was a pioneer botanical ecologist who was awarded the first Master of Science (M.Sc.) degree at Sydney University in 1924.

 In 1917, Marjorie’s outstanding undergraduate career led to a position as lecturer and demonstrator at Adelaide University working with Professor T.G.B.Osborn.

Here is the featured photograph again with Marjorie acting as demonstrator in one of Professor Osborn’s classes. Our thanks to the University of Adelaide Archives.

Marjorie Collins in the laboratory

Marjorie Collins in the laboratory

Marjorie’s biographer, Dr Claire Hooker, tells us that Marjorie’s stay at Adelaide inspired her to examine some of the big questions about the effects of climate “on vegetation and on the ecology of semi-arid regions”, what today we would describe as environmentalist concerns. She loved the land she studied and developed early ideas about conservation.

At the end of 1919 she returned to Sydney to take up a Linnaean Macleay fellowship. She was the first botany candidate to win such a fellowship, a fellowship “that required extensive, rough fieldwork”. Undaunted, Marjorie held Linnaean Macleay fellowships until 1924 and in that year, she won a Sydney University Medal for her M.Sc. examination in Botany, and graduated with first class honours. But as Dr Hooker opines, Marjorie “was to find being a pioneer painful and difficult, both as a woman scientist and as an ecologist”. In 1925 she left academia.

After marrying, Marjorie taught in schools for long periods, wrote natural history articles, and co-authored widely used Honours Leaving Certificate school textbooks on Biology and Practical Biology.  She inspired many school-students with her enthusiasm and warmth, not least her daughter, Eleanor, who was also to carve out her own distinguished career as doctor, researcher and psychiatrist.

Eleanor Dawson

Here is a photograph of Eleanor Shiels when she graduated from Sydney University, in 1951. She was already four months into junior residency at the Royal Prince Alfred Hospital and one month married to Edward Dawson. A compromise would soon be arranged with the Hospital Board.

Eleanor Shiels at Graduation MB BS 1951

Eleanor Shiels at Graduation MB BS 1951

Eleanor’s career spanned medicine and psychiatry. Her CV, she says, is on her bucket-list. But at least I know after she retired she continued her good work writing about, and making submissions to professional bodies and to parliament on the ethics of psychiatrist-patient relations. Now in her twilight years she is still learning, this time, how to care for her life-partner and soul-mate, Edward Dawson.

Let me finish by sharing with you a poem she wrote just over a year ago; it sheds light on the very personal nature of family history. I’ll call it “Eleanor’s poem”. Eleanor may prefer another title.

Eleanor’s poem

At fifty-seven my mother’s mother suddenly died

in the twenty-fourth year of her widowhood.

Epidemic losses from her married years had numbered three;

diphtheria and typhoid, and then pneumonic flu.

Two sons had come back safe from Flanders’ fields,

from Passchendale and Zonnebecke,

the elder wounded, the younger decorated,

eventually even knighted and stated by his ultimate valedictorian

to have forged his soul in the crucible of battle.

But in that family didn’t they all?

Alone my teacher grandmother had raised the six survivors of her seven children

to lives of study, sacrifice and service.

Aided by bursaries, two of her daughters and two sons alike

graduated with honours from her ever-moving suburb-to-suburb household,

fine paradigm of need and equal opportunity.

Then came cancer and post-operative embolism.

At fifty-seven she suddenly died, never having seen or held a grandchild.

At fifty-seven her only married daughter did become a grandmother.

That daughter stood beside me, raptly looking down upon my snugly cotted offspring;

sharing my delight, warmly encouraging yet gently warning me

about the scant-envisaged future years she labelled ‘work and thrall’.

She’d reminisced then how Camilla Wedgwood,

doyenne of 1920s Sydney academic scene,

had viewed me years before in that same cot, tut-tutting, ‘what a waste!’

And with that memory, my mother, a humorously self-styled bluestocking

conspired with me to recognize that even clever women in high places

do not know everything.

Years later, at fifty-seven, now long years ago, I myself was pondering the past;

coming to realize ever so slowly, that I’d not need and must not want a grandchild,

if that child had to be a cold-store embryo or else a long-day child-care baby.

Time would tell.

For at twenty-one my eldest grandchild told me of his dream-

a dream of living with his soul-mate in a tree house

and taking babies for picnics in a forest.

with an email chuckle-sign he asked for help-

help to work out how to make his dream come true.

“We are such stuff as dreams are made on,

and our little life is rounded with a sleep”.

(Eleanor Dawson 13/02/2015)

Eleanor has long been a supporter of the Irish Famine Monument at Hyde Park Barracks in Sydney. Here she is with the Irish Ambassador Declan Kelly  at a wreath-laying ceremony at the the Monument in 2002.

Dr Eleanor Dawson and Ambassador Kelly

Dr Eleanor Dawson and Ambassador Kelly

[A gathering at the Irish Famine Monument takes place each year on the last Sunday of August. This year, 2016, the guest speaker will be Tim Costello. See http://www.irishfaminememorial.org for details].

Eleanor understands and is proud of her connection to her Irish Famine orphan, Bridget McMahon, from County Limerick. Let me remind you of her wonderful lineage: Penelope Carroll–Bridget McMahon–Ann Maria Collins–Marjorie Shiels–Eleanor Dawson. Or as Jaki McCarrick puts it in her play, “you…are a great gift to Australia, and don’t ya forget it”.

Once again a link to the contents of my blog http://wp.me/p4SlVj-oE

Earl Grey’s Irish Famine orphans (35)

A few more snippets

http://prov.vic.gov.au/

Here are some of my research notes. They are barely legible. Please get in touch if you cannot decipher something you want. They were made on one of my research trips to the Victorian Public Records Office when it was out at Altona, i.e. before Spring Street, and before moving to North Melbourne. I can remember taking a train and a bus and a walk before getting there. But it was worth it; the people there were extremely helpful. I cannot thank them enough.

These are notes i took when i perused PROV VPRS 115, 8 boxes, Superintendent Inward Registered correspondence. They’ll be useful for anyone interested in the Port Phillip orphans, I hope. Maybe worth another trip to the archives? You’ll notice I’ve occasionally recorded stuff not directly related to the Earl Grey orphans; remittances, people nominating others for a government-assisted passage, or the death of a baby, as you do. There’s even mention of one of the children who earlier was offered a passage on the Edmund Parry,  and who had refused. “1 March 1850 Catherine Minnihane niece (11 year old) to John O’Keefe from the Parish of Killaloe, townland of Kilcredan, nominated by Thomas Budds Payne“. I wonder did she make it here after all.

What strikes me is the ‘duty of care’ reflected in these letters to Superintendent La Trobe. Sure, there is desire that regulations be administered properly but there is also a very human(e) touch, providing soap for the Pemberton orphans “to enable them to wash all their things and to disembark comfortably” VPRS 115, vol.1, 49/85. Or to help Mary Darcy who had lost use of her limbs from an injury aboard the Pemberton,“the poor girl must be cared for somehow. I must leave the Police Magistrate to suggest in what manner and at what cost” VPRS 115, vol.1, 49/340 .

Anyways have a rummage through these. See what you can find.

PROV. Superintendent correspondence-in 1849 VPRS 115 vol.1

PROV. Superintendent correspondence-in 1849 VPRS 115 vol.1

VPRS115i

VPRS115ii

VPRS115iii

VPRS115iv

VPRS115v

VPRS115vi

VPRS115vii

VPRS115viii

Happy hunting. I don’t think a lot of this made its way into my Barefoot & Pregnant? or on to the website. http://www.irishfaminememorial.org/

Here’s a list of the contents of my blog. Just click on the http address http://wp.me/p4SlVj-oE

Earl Grey’s Irish Famine Orphans (34)

Another Aside

Ah! The wonders of my filing cabinets. Having moved rooms at work a number of times, thrusting stuff quickly into folders, and into boxes when I retired, I shouldn’t be surprised if nowadays ‘lost’ research turns up in the most unlikely places. I’ve just found a report from another excellent research assistant, Margaret Burgmann which I’d like to share with you.

I was preparing the first volume of Barefoot & Pregnant? at the time and was looking at reasons for the brevity of the Earl Grey scheme. I wanted to test the claim it had become increasingly difficult to find suitable employers for the orphans. In the words of Melbourne officials, “…the orphans by each succeeding ship have been disposed of to parties of a lower rank, and less desirable class than those preceding”. Or as Archdeacon McEncroe put it, …the cause of dissatisfaction was with some vulgar masters who had got up it the world. Those who had got money by the gold discovery are the most overbearing towards their servants”. 

I asked Margaret to examine the Registers of applications for orphans 1848-51 held in the State Records of NSW. (nowadays NRS 5240, formerly 4/4714-17). See https://www.records.nsw.gov.au/publications/now-then-enewsletter/now-then-67-april-2014

And to look for the applicants in local commercial directories. Here’s her findings;

Applicants for orphans 1848

Applicants for orphans 1848

foempl48ii

Applications for orphans February-July 1851

Applications for orphans February-July 1851

foempl51ii

foempl51iii

Margaret used W & F Ford, Sydney Directory, Sydney, 1851, Francis Low, The City of Sydney Directory, 1844-5, Sydney, 1844 and his Directory for the City and District of Sydney, 1847, as well as Sands and Kenny, Commercial and General Sydney Directory for 1858-59, (first year of publication). With some qualifications, her conclusion was that yes indeed, 84% of the 1848 applicants were from the upper middle class. In 1851 only 52% of them were. Margaret reminded me that “applicants in 1851 were harder to identify. There were many more applicants from outside Sydney. Further, the directories concentrated on white-collar and well-off blue-collar members of Sydney society. Only occasionally was an entry classified as ‘gentleman'”.

If i was to do a similar exercise again, my starting point would be the people who actually employed the orphans. Since the 1980s, we have been able to identify many more of the orphans’ employers. See the website http://www.irishfaminememorial.org/en/orphans/

I hope this will encourage people to find out more about the masters and mistresses of their own particular orphan servant(s). What directories and other sources could we use?

Earl Grey’s Irish Famine Orphans (33)

 

UNFINISHED STORIES (2)

Mary McConnell (cont.)

Using her family history detective skills, Mary’s descendant, Tricia Evans, has discovered what became of Mary in Australia. She writes,

“For no apparent reason William and Mary never married but they did raise eleven children. Finding all these children and following them through was no easy task…Their first four children were all born pre-1856 which is when civil registration began in New South Wales, therefore births were not registered but luckily they did have them all baptised. I started with the microfilm of the Church of England, Newcastle Diocese registers. I thought I had struck the jackpot as I found them all one after the other right down to the last child, George Silvester Ashton being baptised on 20 June 1872. In fact, nine children were baptised in the Anglican Christ Church, Mount Vincent, and two in the Wesleyan Church in Mulbring.

I then thought it would be an easy task to look for any deaths and or their marriages. As their 7th child is my great grandmother, Margaret Ashton who married James Warby on 15 December 1883 at Maitland, NSW, I made this my starting point. Again I learnt that nothing is as it appears to be.

As I have already mentioned, the first four children were baptisms only, therefore they are listed as Ashton, naming both mother and father. Then when it became law in 1856 to register a birth, death or marriage, Mary registered the next seven children as illegitimate with no father’s name, and gave them the surname of McConnell. So we have a family, on paper, where some are under the name of Ashton and the rest are under the name of McConnell, then not to make it any easier, they all got married under the name of Ashton.

Mary McConnell (Ashton) was to leave a very large legacy in her new homeland by having eleven children who gave her 58 grandchildren”.

There must be quite a number of present-day Australians descended from this one Irish orphan.

Tricia’s good work has allowed us to revise Mary’s family reconstitution form, for yet a third time. Whoever said family history was a ‘finished’ history? Since we’re uncertain where some of Mary’s early children were born, we’ve left that blank to be filled in at a later date.

 

Mary McConnell family reconstitution upgrade

Mary McConnell family reconstitution upgrade

As is often the case, documented evidence of Mary’s life amounts merely to snippets of information. Shortly after her arrival, Mary was employed as a servant to Mr Wilson of East Maitland, for three months, at the rate of £8 per annum (we do not know where or when she met William). She described herself as washerwoman (registering Margaret’s birth in January 1863). Sometime during her life she learned to read and write. She was recorded as being unable to do either when she left Belfast workhouse but could do both, according to her gaol description of 1882. She was only c. 150 cms. tall (1880). She had lost the third finger on her left hand (1882) and was described as ‘stout’ when she fell down the stairs and broke her neck in 1892. As Tricia puts it, “we can only piece together what we believe could be the truth.” And yet, with a dash of curiosity, an enquiring mind, and a snifter of historical understanding, our appreciation of Mary’s life will increase. We may not have the same resources as Alison Light, census records, for example, that throw light on their neighbours but there are some things we could, and should explore. These examples are not the end of it.

How did this young woman from Belfast feel about the weather in her first summer in Australia? She probably loved the warm sun on her back as she went about her household chores. She may also have looked up, and longed for a wet Belfast sky. Other Irish migrants recorded how they felt. A young Dubliner, Isabella Wyly, wrote from Adelaide in March 1857, “You say I told you nothing about the Climate, but what with dust, & Heat & hot winds & Flys & and an Insect that the call Moskitoes we do not know what to do with ourselfs just now. We ar suffering very much from the hot weather”. (David Fitzpatrick, Oceans of Consolation, p.117) Adelaide heat is not the same as Hunter Valley heat in the summer. But it was still shocking to young Michael Normile from County Clare who wrote from Lochinvar in 1855,

“The Climate of this Country is far differant to home. The winter is coming on with us now it is beautiful weather the same as home summer. The summer we past was dreadful hot…I heard that some people got sun struck, in fact I was a day and I would give a mouthfull of money for a mouthfull of fresh air…I Seen this last Summer 4 months without a drop of rain and all that time hot scorching weather. You would See cattle strewed dead in water holes, or along the roads fine working Bullocks all for the want of water”. (Fitzpatrick, Oceans, pp.70-1)

Remember Mary had three young children in tow by this time, all under three years of age.

May I suggest, too, that instead of writing Aboriginal people out of our history, we make every effort to write them in? Aboriginal history is flourishing. Libby Connors’ Warrior is testimony to that. With just a brief untutored internet search, here’s what we found relating to Aboriginal people in the Hunter in mid-nineteenth century,

http://www.environment.nsw.gov.au/resources/heritagebranch/heritage/media/13235huntesvol1.pdf  See 4.2 by Alan Atkinson

https://downloads.newcastle.edu.au/library/cultural%20collections/pdf/brayshaw1987.pdf

http://www.historyofaboriginalsydney.edu.au/north-west/1850s

Alan Atkinson tells us the land of the Pambalang or Big Swamp tribe extended from Newcastle West to the foothills of Mount Vincent, whereas Helen Brayshaw refers to the Wonaruah or Gringai people of this general area. The number of Aboriginal people had fallen drastically since the beginning of the century: none was reported as coming to Maitland for blankets in 1850, for example. Some may have been employed on Knox Child’s estate at Mount Vincent which is where Mary and William settled in the 1850s. Or on neighbouring estates. Others ‘came in’ to live on the fringes of towns like Maitland.

Mary and William probably did not know of the Bulga Bora Ground used for initiation ceremonies near Wollombi but they were aware of the trials of Aboriginal people in West Maitland; of Murphy, Tommy Potts, Martin and King John of the Maitland tribe and Jemmy and Richard Wiseman of the Sugarloaf tribe in December 1851, and of Wickety Wee and Morris in 1853. (See the link to the history of Aboriginal Sydney above).

There were other ways Mary and William’s life experience was different from ours. Mary was about 150 centimetres tall, William 155. Our ancestors were smaller than we are. Their life expectancy was shorter, their families were larger, they had fewer material possessions, fewer labour-saving devices and most of them had a lifetime of hard physical work. By 1882 Mary was missing the third finger on her left hand. How did she cope with pain, and childbirth, and disease? There were no epidurals, no antibiotics, no analgesics, and no gum-numbing injection when she had a tooth extracted.

Janet McCalman in her history of the Melbourne Women’s Hospital, Sex and Suffering (1998) tells of the difficulties Irish Famine women had in giving birth to their children. Malnutrition and poverty in some cases led to underdeveloped and deformed pelvises. Once the women had a better diet, rest and sunshine, in Australia, their babies grew larger in the womb. Mothers had great difficulty gin giving birth to them. I remember seeing an exhibition of obstetric instruments, in Adelaide I think it was. Someone had commented that they wanted more focus on women themselves. But for me, those instruments were horrific instruments. They made me appreciate what women had to go through. In the cases Janet McCalman describes in the early pages of her book, craniotomy forceps were used. “If there was no room, [for the baby to pass through the pelvis] then the baby had to be removed by a destructive operation, most often a craniotomy where the baby’s skull was perforated and collapsed, or the child was taken apart in the uterus and extracted in pieces”. (p.22) Fortunately, our Mary McConnell did not suffer such horrors.

Their means of transport was also different from ours. We are uncertain when or where Mary and William met. William’s tickets-of-Leave were for the Paterson and Raymond Terrace Districts, granted with the usual conditions; he could live and work for himself in the district, must carry his ticket with him at all times, and must attend church. The couple’s first child, William Henry, was born in Miller’s Forest, about four miles from Raymond Terrace. In January 1853, with another child and Mary three months pregnant, we know they were in West Maitland. They were before a Police court charged with indecent language in a public place. See http://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/page/127645 page 2 col 5. Mary and William had probably travelled by water, horse, cart or on foot. The tributaries of the Hunter river interconnect Paterson, Raymond Terrace, Morpeth and West Maitland and between there and Mount Vincent where the pair were to settle sometime after, it was a walk of 15 or 16 miles. We hope they at least had a cart for their young children. Here’s a map of the area courtesy of Brian Andrews.

Sugarloaf District, Hunter Valley, with thanks to Brian Andrews

Sugarloaf District, Hunter Valley

As Tricia discovered, all Mary and William’s children were baptised in church. For twenty or more years, Mary and William lived at Mount Vincent, on the Mulbring Creek, with other tenant farmers on the estate of William Knox Child. Knox Child had sold his estate in Kent and come to Mount Vincent in the 1840s. He divided his new estate into tenant farms letting them to free migrants and ticket-of-leave convicts.

William Ashton leased a tenant farm from Knox Child sometime in the early to mid 1850s, although exactly what kind of lease is uncertain. His lease may simply have entailed a dwelling, and a small plot of land of 10 acres. William presumably helped with the ploughing, sowing and harvesting of the wheat crop on the Estate at certain times of the year, and at others, worked as a timber-getter and sawyer. In 1862 and 1871, his name appears on official gazette lists of those licensed to cut hardwood on the slopes and ridges of Sugarloaf valley. (At different times, William’s occupation was recorded as brickmaker, sawyer, bushman and labourer).

The slab hut where Mary and William lived probably had a shingle roof made from local forest oak, and a well-watered, beaten and swept, dirt flour. Their furniture and utensils were sparse and simple, with Mary cooking porridge, stew and soup in cast iron pots. William may have added a lean-to, as his family grew larger. The split slabs of hardwood that formed their house were cut by sawyers like William.

The saw pits where William worked were usually in the bush, near where the trees were felled. A large square hole was dug deep enough in the ground to allow another sawyer to stand completely below ground level. Once the tree, now cut into carefully measured logs, was rolled into place above the pit, one man below and one above used a large hand-saw to cut the logs to the dimensions they wanted. It was hard work. One can imagine William with a big bushy beard coming home dirty, covered in sawdust. Our thanks to Brian Andrews for this information about sawyers and their work. Here are a couple of illustrations from Brian’s Sugarloaf magazine,

Slab Hut

Slab Hut

 

 

ashtonsawpit (2)

Saw Pit. Thanks to Brian Andrews.

 

 Mary herself had an ever-growing family to attend to, a child being born almost every two years from 1850 until 1872. She had her own daily domestic chores, maybe a kitchen-garden where she grew vegetables, even though the soil was not particularly fertile. When Tricia’s great-grandmother Margaret was born in January 1863, Mary described herself as ‘washerwoman’. Tricia writes “I have always felt (nothing to back it up except my gut feeling) that Mary was one of the washerwomen in the Knox Child household. If so, she may have worked in a building separate from the main household”. Or she may have boiled water for the laundry on a wood fire outdoors taking washing in from other tenants on the estate. At any rate, I doubt her job was as clean or ‘idyllic’ as in this image from the New South Wales State Library picture collection.

Washerwomen c. 1871 courtesy State Library New South Wales

Washerwomen c. 1871 courtesy State Library New South Wales

I wonder did Mary retain her ‘attitude’, and like Mrs Molony on the goldfields in Victoria, answer back those who questioned the quality of her work, or what she charged for her washing. William Kelly, in his Life in Victoria in 1853 recorded his meeting with Mrs Molony,

“…or about four shillings above the usual price, I remarked, in an audible soliloquy; upon which, putting her hands in the jacket pockets, approaching the attitude to which all voluble women incline in energetic declamation, she apostrophised us in the following vernacular terms; ‘Sweet bad luck to the pair of yes, ye lousy lime-juicers. It’s dirty linen that’s too good for the likes of yes. I wouldn’t give you a squeeze o’ me blue-bag for the money. Maybe yes think I wash for divarshun, and that me wood is laid down for me thankee, or that I git me wathur for the whistlin‘”. (Kelly, Life, pp.53-4). From what we know of her, I’m sure Mary gave a tongue-lashing if she was crossed.

Most of us, family historians especially(?), like to believe our ancestors lived the lives we would want for them. “If the creation of a nation rests on its ‘foundation myths’, family legends too, handed down the generations, are also the stuff, like dreams, of which we make ourselves” (Alison Light, Common People, p.130). It’s the natural thing to do. ‘Mary and William fell in love, they worked hard and raised a large family and were respected by their community’. you know the kind of thing I mean. Mary and William’s life at Mount Vincent may well have been their best years. William even wrote a letter to the press protesting against road works and signed a petition, both against and for, locating a post office on the Mount Vincent estate (1858 and 1859). Tricia says, “after they moved into Maitland in the 1870s, Mary gained a reputation as a midwife. Being a midwife in these times was not an official job. It was just a well-experienced person who was prepared to attend whenever she was needed. I know she was in attendance for many of her own grandchildren and this is where she gained her skill”.

But as Tricia was to find out, “nothing is as it appears to be”. In the Maitland Gaol Description Books in State Records of New South Wales April 1880, Tricia found not only both Mary and William linked together, convicted of obscene and profane language; that the Magistrate remarked at the trial ‘women appeared worse than the men in using bad language‘; that William was a convict not a Bounty migrant as she previously thought; and that he had 11 previous convictions recorded against his name. As she put it, “boy oh boy, the hunt was on”.

We’ve had a look through gaol records and reports in the Maitland Mercury and Hunter River Advertiser. Here’s some of what we found. Most of the cases were heard in the Police Court, West Maitland. Mary appears only a few times, William very often for ‘drunkenness and obscene language’, in effect for criminal misdemeanours, rather than major crimes. We began by searching for the ’11 previous’.

1 January 1853 Both Mary and William were found guilty of using indecent language ‘at the end of Ashton’s house’ in West Maitland ’12 yards from a public thoroughfare’. [This may be a useful way of tracing where they lived. We also should search for the legal definition of ‘indecent language‘. I suspect the ‘crime’ was a means of controlling convict society and preventing civil disturbance.  No doubt there is more to it than that. Maybe a lawyer or legal historian could put us on the right path].

4 January 1863 William, obscene language

10 January 1867 William, assault. Both parties fail to appear

And then something that may be the key to all the rest, 10 April 1867, a JP commits William, on suspicion of insanity. 11 April he is found to be suffering from delerium tremens and a week later, he is remanded in gaol ‘for his own protection’. I wonder was William an alcoholic. He certainly had a problem with alcohol.

But in early 1878 he fell off the wagon. 12 March Drunk in the High Street, West Maitland; 8 August obscene language; 10 August Guilty of obscene language in Sparks Street. ‘He had been annoyed by his wife’; 8 October indecent language and drunkenness; 31 October 1879 Obscene language, gaol for a month; 20 December Maitland obscene language. 

Between 1878 and 1887, when he was about 50 to 68 years old, William appeared in court almost twenty times. He had had enough of a lifetime of ‘hard yakka’ and turned to his old friend, a bottle of rum? He is in and out of gaol, sometimes for only 48 hours, sometimes for a month. Mostly, he is found guilty of obscene language and being drunk. He just doesn’t have the money to pay the fine so he goes to gaol instead. These were not exactly fun times for Mary.

Let me finish William’s sorry tale with a few other court reports that help us understand what was happening to him. On the 23 rd January 1884 he was ‘drunk and disorderly’ again, and a month or two later, 13 March he’s charged with neglecting to send a child to school. [I wonder what that’s all about]. Shortly later, on the 19th April, a Mrs Griffiths sues him to quit tenancy of her dwelling in Devonshire Street, West Maitland.

In 1887 (30 July) there is a meeting of William’s creditors declaring his estate insolvent.  The next we hear from the Maitland Mercury 24 September 1887 ‘William Ashton of Mount Vincent was fined £10 plus costs by the Newcastle Bench for having on August 20th shifted certain points on the Homebush-Waratah Railway at Awaba by reason of which a train engine got off the line’.  There is a report of the case in the Newcastle Herald, 23 September 1887 page 3, col.5. see http://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/135979909?searchTerm=%22William%20Ashton%22&searchLimits=l-state=New+South+Wales|||l-decade=188|||l-title=356

An aged man is but a paltry thing, a tattered coat upon a stick, unless…

(Yeats, Sailing to Byzantium)

We can but hope that Mary’s last few years were a bit more peaceful. She was visiting her married daughter in King Street, Newcastle when she fell down the stairs and broke her neck in 1892. In 1894 William died. Both of them are buried in Sandgate Cemetery. Their large family spread across the Hunter and beyond, working as rough carpenters, small farmers, labourers, sawyers and coal-miners, in areas such as Newcastle, Toronto, Moontown in East Maitland, and Mount Vincent. Their youngest child, George Silvester, joined up to fight in the First World War at the ripe young age of forty-three!

Tricia tells me, once her health issues are resolved, she hopes to return to her family history in earnest. She will look into William’s history further, do more on her great grandparents, Margaret Ashton and James Warby, have a look at George’s war record, and research the other two tragedies in her family history; the poisoning of Mary McConnell’s great-great-grandchild 9 month old Cyril Albert Ashton in 1899, and the murder of Cecil Boyne Lambert in 1917. Maybe another family member is willing to help?

Tricia has in her library, John Turner’s, The Rise of High Street, Maitland–A Pictorial History, Council of the City of Maitland, 1989 which reproduces some of F.C Terry’s beautiful prints of West Maitland. You may like to view them in a WordPress site.

https://coalriver.files.wordpress.com/2015/02/charlton1961.pdf

George Ashton's war medal

George Ashton’s war medal

 

 

James Warby

James Warby

Earl Grey’s Irish Famine Orphans (32)

Some Unfinished histories (1)

Mary McConnell

I’m not sure how this will go. I’ll try getting in touch with some of the orphans’ descendants who sent me material in the past. Maybe together we can give an outline of a family history that may be of interest to others, even if it’s just to suggest possible lines of enquiry. I’ll attempt some of the things I’ve suggested earlier, such as make our own presence felt, find something about the orphan’s Irish background, as well as what happened to her in Australia. And I hope, put her in some kind of historical context. I’m sure you know all this already. You are welcome to make a suggestion about the things we ought to include. 

This time, I’ve chosen to write something about one of the infamous ‘Belfast Girls’, Mary McConnell. I’ve been in touch with one of Mary’s descendants, Mrs Pat Evans, for more than twenty-five years; she herself has been working on Mary for more than thirty. Tricia has provided lots of information about Mary’s history. She tells me that she is emotionally close to her orphan descendant. After all, she is her great-great grandmother. It took her a while to reconcile herself to some aspects of Mary’s life but she understands her, and admires her resilience. Tricia says, ” I am able to accept that my Mary was not what we would call a good girl today and at the same time extremely thankful of what she did to survive in the harshness of the day”.

We both are very grateful to a renowned local historian, Brian Andrews, who helped us put Mary’s life into context, in the Hunter Valley of  New South Wales. Unfortunately I lost contact with Brian some years ago. But I see, via the web, he was awarded an OAM for his work as a local historian. Congratulations and well-deserved, Brian. Brilliant work.

I’d like to keep this post in an unfinished form to emphasize that orphans’ family histories are constantly being revised. The ‘facts’ can change so quickly.

Tricia rightly suggests that if she was writing Mary’s history outside and independent of this blog, she’d provide a summary of the Earl Grey scheme, something like this,

“Lord Earl Grey, the British Secretary of State, thought he had the magic answer for several problems facing the English Parliament. He could rid the Irish workhouses of the orphaned paupers by supplying the Colonies with female labour and females to correct the imbalance of the sexes, which were both needed in great numbers in the Colony of New South Wales. This scheme was called the ‘Earl Grey Scheme’ and was to remove about 4,000 female Irish orphans from the disgusting workhouses throughout Ireland. The scheme was to survive for only two years.

See http://www.workhouses.org.uk/Belfast/

 
From the Belfast Workhouse, Mary, with the other ‘Belfast Orphans’, left Belfast traveling to Plymouth by the Steamer ‘Athlone’ under the supervision of wardmaster James Caldwell. The ‘Belfast Girls’ and many others then left Plymouth on the 3rd June 1848 per ‘Earl Grey’ to Sydney Australia where they arrived after 122 days at sea on 6 October 1848.
 
Whilst on this voyage each girl was given daily rations of ½ lb meat, ¼ lb flour, raisins, peas, rice, tea, sugar, butter and biscuits. Each girl was also outfitted with 6 shifts, 6 pairs of stockings – two worsted & 4 cotton, 2 pair of shoes, 2 gowns – one of woolen plaid, 2 short wrappers, 2 night wrappers, 2 flannel petticoats, 2 cotton petticoats, 1 stout worsted shawl & a cloak, 2 neck and 3 pocket handkerchiefs, 2 linen collars, 2 aprons, 1 pair of stays, 1 pair of sheets, 1 pair of mitts, 1 bonnet, day & night caps, 2 towels, 2lb of soap, combs & brushes, needles, threads, tape & whatever other little articles (such as a few yards of cotton or calico) the Matron may know young females to require. They were also given a Bible and Prayer Book suitable for their respective religions. Then they were given one box – length 2 feet, width 14 inches, deep 14 inches, with lock and key, to be painted, & the Emigrant’s name painted on the front, & a catalogue of the contents pasted on the inside of the lid. The box was ordered to be strongly made, so as to bear a long voyage & besides being locked they should be strongly corded.
The first ship to arrive in The Colony was ‘Earl Grey’ on the 6th October 1848 into the harbour of Port Jackson. The last ship carrying it’s live cargo entered Port Phillip, Melbourne on 31st March 1850 and she was the ‘Eliza Caroline’.  There is also known to be four ships that sailed into the Port of Adelaide in South Australia.
 
The ‘Belfast Girls’, per ‘Earl Grey’, as they were referred to, were classified as refractory. One of the girls (I must admit was not one of the good girls)  was my Mary McConnell”.
In her family history, Tricia would also say more about the voyage itself, and about Surgeon Grattan Douglass’s condemnation of the ‘Belfast girls’, and the subsequent enquiries that followed his report.
I’m not going to do that here, for my purpose throughout my blog, is to give a more detailed picture of the scheme and of the Irish Famine orphans themselves, than is usually the case. Tricia’s comments have prompted me to ask how many Earl Grey descendants have read the report of C. G. Otway, the Irish Poor Law Commissioner? It’s in my Barefoot & Pregnant? volume 1, which should be available in your local library. Why do you think it has had such little impact?
May I invite anyone writing their orphan family history, especially if he or she wants to delve deeper, to think about what I’ve said in these thirty-odd blog posts; about the origins of the scheme; about how the plan may belong more to the Colonial Land and Emigration Commissioners than Earl Grey himself; about how Irish Poor Law Commissioners and Boards of Workhouse Guardians arranged things at the Irish end; about Charter Parties and the regulations that applied to every government assisted voyage; about the orphans’ arrival and early days in Australia, and above all, about the ways we might try to put ourselves in an orphan’s shoes and view things through her eyes?
Here’s a link to what my blog contains, http://wp.me/p4SlVj-oE  If you wish to use any of it in a fuller family history of your own, please feel free. But also please acknowledge your debt in the conventional academic way. I believe that goes something like this,  my name, name of the blog post and the date you accessed the site. My thanks in advance.
Mary McConnell
At last, to Mary.
A recently posted family reconstitution form gives us a brief synopsis of Mary’s life. And already our ‘facts’ have changed; we find the form needs revising. There is a big question mark over the names of Mary’s parents. James and Fanny are the names Mary gave to Belfast workhouse. So I’ll call them James and Fanny McConnell. 

Tricia recently informed me that William Ashton‘s details are also incorrect. He was not a Bounty migrant who came by the Brothers in 1841. Rather, he was a convict found guilty of highway robbery at Liverpool Quarter Sessions in July 1838. He arrived in New South Wales on board the Theresa in 1839. Tricia discovered this through Maitland gaol records and the Maitland Mercury which linked William and Mary’s name together. We should also remove William’s parents’ names and his birthplace and date from the form, and change his occupations to ‘brickmaker, sawyer, labourer, and bushman’.  The other details are correct.

fomarymcconnellearl grey

 

 

Among descendants of the Famine orphans, the story of the “Belfast Girls” is relatively well-known. Surgeon Douglass described the ‘Belfast girls’ as “notoriously bad in every sense of the word“.  “The professed public woman and barefooted little country beggar have been alike sought after as fit persons to pass through the purification of the workhouse, ere they were sent as a valuable addition to the Colonists of New South Wales”. It was a stain that’s been very difficult to remove.

A detailed enquiry by Irish Poor Law Commissioner C. G Otway rebutted Douglass’s claims –as might be expected– and was supported by the Colonial Land and Emigration Commissioners in London–as also might be expected– but it was never enough to restore the good name of the rebellious ‘millies’ (Mill workers) and “gurriers” from Belfast. As far as the Surgeon, Captain, and Matron of the Earl Grey were concerned, Mary McConnell was “a professed public woman”. She, and the other ‘Belfast girls’, should not be allowed to land in Sydney. “Considering that the landing of the Belfast girls in Sydney, would assuredly lead to their final ruin, and being also impressed with the importance of separating them from the remainder of the Orphans, the Committee [the Sydney Orphan Committee] acceded to the proposal of Dr Douglass, that they should be at once forwarded into the Country” .

Let me mention in passing, how much I enjoyed Jaki McCarrick’s recent award winning play, Belfast Girls“, not as a nitpicking historian but for its dramatic sensibility, its contemporary relevance, and above all, Jaki’s sympathetic treatment of the young women.

Ellen (with renewed resolve) …Remember, this is what you’re to be wed ta. Your books. Your learnin’. For Molly’s sake — let none of us waste this journey an’ all we’ve learned. You — in here (points to her head) are a great gift to Australia, an’ don’t ya  forget it. We all are an’ must none of us forget it.

(Belfast Girls by Jaki McCarrick © Samuel French Ltd. London. All rights reserved

Reprinted by permission of Samuel French Ltd. on behalf of Jaki McCarrick)

——————————————

We are lucky the Otway Report has survived: it has specific information about Mary McConnell. (For more details, see Disc 2 of Ray Debnam’s CD set, Feisty Colleens).

In the report, two Belfast Detective Police Constables, DC John Cane and DC Stewart McWilliams testified that none of the Belfast girls accused of prostitution by Surgeon Douglass was known to them as such.

Stewart McWilliams,  Police Constable sworn:

I am one of the detective police;…I have been so employed for the last eighteen years; from the nature of my duties, I have a knowledge of all the houses of ill-fame, and the persons frequenting them in Belfast; all of the prostitutes I mean. I do not think there is a prostitute in the town I do not know…

From my knowledge of young persons working in mills and manufactories, I know they are generally unguarded in their language and mode of expression, and use unchaste language, though they may not be unchaste in person, or prostitutes.

I have read over the names on the list of the females sent in the first vessel from Belfast, and there is not the name of a single person that I ever knew or heard of as being a prostitute amongst them.

Look at the name whose initials correspond with Mary McCann, No. 45 I had no knowledge of her as a prostitute or person of bad character, and she could not have been well known in Belfast as a prostitute without my knowing it.

Look at Mary McConnell, No.55 I give the same answer… (Barefoot vol. 1, pp. 106-7.)

Given the circumstances, theirs is the kind of evidence we might expect? I leave you to decide for yourself. My view is that people today are not so quick to adopt the high moral ground; they understand how someone may depend upon prostitution to survive and others might use it for their own empowerment and material security. Maybe Surgeon Douglass too quickly accepted as truth the insults and obscene language the Belfast orphans hurled at one another.

More interesting than the Constables’ evidence is the testimony of Catherine McKevey who lived with her husband, a Pattern Maker, in Laggan Village. She had known Mary personally for the six years before she left for Australia.

Catherine McKevey sworn statement to C. G. Otway

Catherine McKevey sworn statement to C. G. Otway (Barefoot, 1, p.123)

This has an authentic ring to it, does it not? Mary’s parents were ‘decent, hard-working people‘. Mary had lived and worked with Mrs McKevey for about a year when she 14 or 15 years of age, as ‘a thorough servant‘ (i.e. doing everything). Her dad had died three years ago (in c. 1845-6) and her mum two (in c. 1846-7); ‘she was an orphan‘. ‘I heard (gossip) she was in the penitentiary and had not behaved herself as she ought‘. After Mrs McKevey’s, Mary had gone first into service, and then to work in Mr Montgomery’s mill. ‘I…advised her as to conducting herself well where she was going…‘.

—————————-

Good-bye your hens running in and out of the white house

Your absent-minded goats along the road, your black cows

Your greyhounds and your hunters beautifully bred

Your drums and your dolled-up Virgins and your ignorant

dead

(Louis MacNeice, Valediction)

—————————————

Sometimes family historians need to make an educated guess about what happened to a descendant. We’ve done that in some of what follows.

Mary was born in Tyrone, the daughter of James and Fanny McConnell, and baptised a Presbyterian. Surely she had siblings? Maybe a brother or sister died before she and her young parents went to Belfast, in the early 1840s. ‘Jummie’ McConnell, a weaver, part of the declining domestic-putting-out system in Tyrone, and like an ever increasing number of others, was told there’d be a job and hope in Belfast. It was a city built on mud flats, and already growing into Ireland’s major manufacturing city.  But in the 1840s, it was a mere fledgling of what it was to become later in the nineteenth century.

The young family went across Queen’s bridge to Laggan Village, down near the Short Strand and the bottom of Ravenhill Road, in County Down.  It was part of Ballymacarrat, a largely working-class and Protestant area, with its Iron Works, Vitriol Works, Rope Works and Textile Mills.  Tricia was informed by a Senior Research Fellow at Queen’s University that Laggan Village was on the South Bank of the Lagan River, a Protestant working-class area that included Ballarat Street, Dungevan Street and Bendigo and Carrington Streets. The map Tricia has is a fairly modern one; it includes Albertbridge, one of the bridges crossing the Lagan but that bridge was not finished until 1890.  In the recent ‘Troubles’, the area was a ‘narrow ground’, a battleground for sectarian conflict. It has since been rebuilt. I doubt if Mary would recognize it, if she returned today.

 “I never saw a richer country, or, to speak my mind, a finer people; the worst of them is the bitter and envenomed dislike which they have to each other. Their factions have been so long envenomed, and they have such narrow ground to do their battle in, that they are like people fighting with daggers in a hogshead” (Walter Scott 1825)

Mary appears not have carried any of that ‘venom’ with her. Her common-law husband, William Ashton, was a Roman Catholic and her children were baptised in the Church of England.

Her parents, Jimmy McConnell and his wife, Fanny, were ‘hard-working, decent people’. But Belfast would be no earthly paradise, and Laggan village would be their deathbed. 

Tricia, I’ve tried to find out a bit more about Belfast during the Famine years. I haven’t bought this book, just seen bits of it via Google; Christine Kinealy and Gerard Mac Atasney, The Hidden Famine. Hunger, Poverty and Sectarianism in Belfast, 1840-50, Pluto Press, 2000. (The authors also have a chapter in the Atlas of the Great Irish Famine). They explain Belfast did not escape ‘the devastation triggered by’ the Famine which is something not widely recognized by historians. Nearly 1500 people died in Belfast workhouse during 1847 (Mary would have seen many of them die). In the three months between late December 1846 and March 1847, during a very bad winter, nearly 280 thousand quarts of soup and 775 cwt of bread was given to the hungry through Belfast’s soup kitchens. “By the end of March, over 1,000 “wretched-looking beings” each day were receiving free rations of bread and soup at the old House of Correction“. The Belfast Relief Committee knew that more than food was needed.”There are to be found a vast number of families…who have neither bed nor bedding of any description–whose only couch is a heap of filthy straw, in the corner of a wretched apartment”. 

Now imagine you are 17-18 year-old Mary McConnell in late 1846, early 1847. Your dad died a year ago and you and your mum have survived, only just. In that desperately cold winter, your mum died too. You lost your job in the Flax Mill. What would you do? What do you think Mary did? Fight tooth and nail, as a street kid? Become a prostitute, at seventeen years of age? (that is still uncertain). Develop an obscenely sharp and cutting tongue to protect herself from rivals and predators? “That’s my fucken crust of bread, wee lad. Touch it and I’ll cut yer balls off”. Use soup kitchens; there was one in Ballymacarrat. Get into the workhouse when the cold months came. She was in Belfast workhouse “16 months previous to her emigration“, that is since early 1847 (Barefoot, 1, p.71).   But then she learned of the Earl Grey scheme, and with other street-wise young inmates, decided Australia was the place to go. Some of her shipmates, the Hall sisters, Rose McLarnon and Eliza Mulholland also had an association with Ballymacarrat.

 None of Douglass’s ‘troublemakers’ was allowed to disembark at Port Jackson. All of the orphans had to stay on board whilst the Sydney Orphan Committee called Surgeon, Matron, and Ship’s Master before them. They decided the feisty, rebellious, pilfering, potty-mouthed Belfasters should be kept separate from the others and sent immediately into the hinterland. Mary would be sent by steamer to Maitland, with eleven others, Ellen Rooney, Eliza Conn, Mary Black, Anne McGuire et al. Another thirty seven would be sent to Moreton Bay. Did Mary ever meet any of the others again? Would she have recognized them if she had passed them on the streets of Maitland in the 1880s?
One wonders too if the recalcitrant Belfasters suffered the same punishment as those observed by James Porter when he travelled to Moreton Bay as cuddy-boy on board the Eagle towards the end of 1849. “There (sic) hair had been cut short…consequently they were afterwards called ‘short grasses’. Their dress consisted of a plain cotton gown with white spots which hung loose from the neck to the feet. They were covered with heavy hob-nailed shoes. Each girl if she had any idea of adornment had no means of carrying it out”. It was a common punishment for convict women.
To be continued
We’ll take up the story of Mary’s life in the Hunter Valley, next time.

Earl Grey’s Irish Famine orphans (31)

Family reconstitutions-family histories

Just to complete my previous post, here are some more family reconstitutions for your perusal.

(See  http://wp.me/p4SlVj-zv for more information about this ‘revolutionary’ demographic technique. Scroll down the link to the “Introduction” of Professor Wrigley’s book).

Some Port Phillip arrivals; double click or ‘pinch’ to make larger

fofallon

Bridget Fallon per Pemberton 1849

 

foharenewliver

Sarah Hare per New Liverpool 1849

 

 

fomaroney

Ann(e) Marony per Eliza Caroline 1850

 

 

fonelligan

Ann Nelligan per Pemberton 1849

 

foenelligan

Eliza Nelligan per Pemberton 1849

 

 

foobrienpemb

Sarah O’Brien per Pemberton

 

Fanny Young per Tippoo Saib

Fanny Young per Tippoo Saib

 

Some who went to the Moreton Bay district

 

fodowdqld

Bridget Dowd per Thomas Arbuthot 1850

 

 

 

fofitzgibbonqld

Mary Fitzgibbon per Thomas Arbuthnot 1850

 

 

fokingqld

Bridget King per Panama 1850

 

fomcgarryqld

Jane McGarry per Earl Grey 1848

 

 

 

blogmoriarty1

Catherine Moriarty with husband Tom Elliott and other family members c. 1886. Thanks to Mike Vincent.

 

fomoriarty

Catherine Moriarty per Thomas Arbuthnot 1850

 

foweatherallqld

Mary Anne Weatherall per Lady Peel 1849

Earl Grey’s Irish Famine orphans (30)

IMPLICATIONS

 

St Stephen's Green, Dublin: Famine sculpture detail

St Stephen’s Green, Dublin: Famine sculpture detail

 

 

I wonder why we need to assess the contribution of the orphans to Australia. Is it just something historians do, deluded fools that we are? There have been a number of attempts already. The orphans were workhouse refuse/deadwood tipped out on poor unsuspecting colonists by British imperialists. Or were they ‘mothers to the Australian character’ whose ‘descendants enjoyed opportunities unheard of in Ireland’? There’s a great array of views about the orphans’ history on the Irish Famine memorial website that are worth pondering, at http://www.irishfaminememorial.org/en/events/  I wonder if speeches made at the Melbourne annual gathering in November are also available. Does anyone know?

I’ve even dabbled a little myself in the past, in the introduction to Barefoot and Pregnant?, volume one, in the magazine, History Ireland in 2000, and in the description of the Earl Grey scheme on the Irish Famine memorial website. See for example the penultimate paragraph at http://www.irishfaminememorial.org/en/history/earl-grey-scheme  I’d probably still hold to these views. Elsewhere, I’ve suggested we be wary of too sentimental a treatment of the orphans’ lives.

As Tanya Evans reminded me, I even posed one of those intractable questions a long time ago; ‘were the orphans disproportionately represented among the criminal classes, in suicide records, or among the inmates of destitute and mental asylums’? One might surmise that since the orphans lacked the same family support networks as other immigrants, they were more at risk of falling on hard times. Their demographic history, too,–many of them married older men and had long years of widowhood–may have increased their chance of ending up in an institution, later in life.

On one of my research trips to Melbourne, financed by Macquarie University, i searched for orphans among prison records. In the Public Record Office of Victoria there was a Central Register of Female prisoners at VPRS 516 and a Prisoner’s Personal Description Register at VPRS 521. They were in a very fragile condition and soon became only available on microfiche, thank goodness. Here’s the sort of thing I noted down,

PROV VPRS 521 vol 1  No 7 Catherine Ellis Lady Kennaway 1848 b. 1835 5’1″slender fair complexion dark brown hair grey eyes received into gaol 1 January-14 January 1851

ditto No 129 Amelia Nott New Liverpool 1849 b. 1827 Free three convictions drunk slender fresh complexion dark brown hair grey eyes neither read nor write two small scars on bridge of nose b Jersey RC married servant 20 October 1854 For medical treatment

ditto No 133 Susan Stewart Pemberton 1850 b. 1834 two previous drunk stout fair brown hair hazel eyes reads and writes imperfectly 5′ 2½” scar upper lip and right hand Ireland Catholic single idle and disorderly 1 calendar month 15/2-15/3/1856

ditto No 833 Mary Ann Tyrell Roman Emperor 1848 1835 once before 4″8½” Ireland Catholic married

You will appreciate the kind of problem this poses. Did some orphans deliberately provide false information or genuinely forget details of their arrival? What if we find no record of their marriage? Can we be sure this really is an Earl Grey orphan? Some of the examples above would appear to be so. But how many overall went to gaol? What percentage of the total? Were they in gaol only for a short period of their lives, or often, over the years?

If we go looking for orphans in institutions, in prisons, benevolent asylums, mental hospitals and the like, of course we will find them. But what we do here, and I think I’ve mentioned this before, is add the bias of expectation to the bias of the sources we use. We distort our view of things by focussing one-eyed on this aspect of the orphans’ history.

Still, it is important that we get an idea of how many orphans experienced such a life. I encourage anyone working in this area to continue doing so. If i remember correctly, Julie Poulter is researching orphans who went to Darlinghurst gaol in Sydney, in a thesis she is doing at the University of New England. Maybe people looking at these things will be willing to share their findings? I could include what you want to say in these blog posts. At least I think that is possible. I’m not sure how many people actually read the comments at the end of each post.

FAMILY HISTORIES

A similar caveat applies to my own painstaking family reconstitutions. They are weighted towards the orphans who generally lived in stable, life-long relationships here in Australia. That too may be a distortion of how we perceive the orphans’ contribution to Australian society. Nonetheless I shall continue using them. I intend appending more to this post. They are an important means of helping us write orphan family histories. And the more family histories we have, the greater the empirical data we have to assess what happened to the Earl Grey orphans in Australia. They will ‘thicken’ our description, an anthropologist might say.

SOME ETHICAL ISSUES

The common ground between family historians, professional genealogists and academic historians is sometimes a tricky one to negotiate. I particularly admire those who treat each other with tact and sensitivity. And worry that my own steel-capped boots will damage too many metaphorical shins. Yet for Earl Grey orphan histories to flourish, may I suggest cooperation is essential? Tanya Evans treats some of the issues I have in mind in her recent Fractured Families and resolves them with what she calls ‘shared authority’. Her book is well worth a read.

Let me outline some of my own concerns.

  1. What’s the best way to ask family historians how they confirmed there is an Irish female orphan in their family? There was, after all, an enormous number of young Irish females arriving in New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia in the early 1850s. Are you sure ‘your’ Mary Kelly, Cathy Kennedy or Mary Ryan  is the one who came to Port Phillip in 1849 on the Pemberton and you’re not just making a leap of faith?

And to extend this a bit further, how do we know that this second or third or fourth marriage is our orphan’s? Can we be sure that this is her changing her name more than once? Reading orphan descendants write about frequent remarriages and name changes has really interesting implications. Did women at the exposed and vulnerable end of Australian society in the nineteenth century have to use these survival strategies, or life strategies, in order to get by? What kind of life must they have led? My not having read much about this sort of thing before may simply be a fault of my own. Has much/anything been written about it already, does anyone know?

    2. What if I discover something a family historian may not like to hear, that that orphan descendant beat his wife relentlessly, that that one molested children or that daughter was locked away in a mental institution for more than forty years? What other disturbing factor could there be…that she was constantly drunk and abandoned her children to an Industrial school?…that she committed infanticide? Maybe you can accept and acknowledge these things. As Alison Light put it, we don’t have to like our ancestors. But what if one person in the family objects to such things being publicized in their family history? Or perhaps there is disagreement over an interpretation you’ve made. Does that mean it should be censored or even shelved? I’d love to hear your view.

  3. Or what if it is as simple as someone objecting, “You can’t say that. No ancestor of mine was ever in a workhouse.” It has happened before.  It may even be an objection to something you include about the Famine. “The charge of culpable neglect of the consequences of policies leading to mass starvation is also indisputable.” (Peter Gray quoted in  D. P. Nally’s Human Encumbrances, p 226). Should one therefore cut that bit from the family history?

‘On you go now! Run, son, like the devil

And tell your mother to try

To find me a bubble for the spirit level

And a new knot for this tie.’  

(Seamus Heaney, The Errand in The Spirit Level)

I saved some material on my computer sent to me by orphan descendants some years ago. I must try getting in touch again, if they are still with us, D.G., as my friend Tom Power would say. I could begin by putting together a draft of a family history, ask for their input, and  show them the draft. If they gave their consent, I could then put it into the blog. I have a sense of these orphan family histories as more of a beginning than an end.

In the meantime I’ll put up some more FAMILY RECONSTITUTIONS. I’d like to return to them at a later date to suggest ways they can be used in a family history. I’ve made a selection of orphans who went to South Australia, Victoria, New South Wales and Queensland. And in order to emphasize the need for cooperation, I’ve gone back to some originals where orphan descendants filled out one of my forms as best they could, and I was able to add a bit more information.

First some family reconstitutions from New South Wales and South Australia. More to follow. Double click or pinch to make these larger.

fotierney

foboyleearlg

fobanks

fomarymcconnellearl grey

fobooth

foburt

fomdevlin

fobellromanemp

fohellenelgin

fotaafeinconst

To be continued…

key to blogs is at http://wp.me/p4SlVj-oE